Tiramisu is a timeless no-bake Italian dessert combining espresso-dipped ladyfingers and a creamy lightly sweetened mascarpone cream. This recipe is from the late Maida Heatter and is easily the best homemade tiramisu recipe that I’ve ever tried.
A couple months ago, I was sent a new cookbook called Happiness is Baking. This cookbook includes Maida Heatter’s favorite recipes with the foreword written by Dorie Greenspan. I, unsurprisingly, immediately fell in love with my newest cookbook. It’s a collection of 100 foolproof and classic desserts including cookies, cakes, muffins, pies, tarts, and more that range from simple everyday cookies to outrageously indulgent chocolate soufflé cake.
For those not familiar, Maida Heatter is an icon, especially in the baking world. Dubbed the Queen of Cake, her expansive culinary career included 9 cookbooks, recipes for the Times, a restaurant, and three James Beard Awards. Baker and author Dorie Greenspan once said “Whenever someone tells me they want to learn to bake, I tell them to start with Maida Heatter’s books. That’s what I did.” This latest cookbook is a testament to Maida’s legacy.
She passed away at the age of 102 last week, only 2 months after this book was published. She leaves behind an incalculable amount of inspiration to bakers and cooks all over the world. I’m truly honored to share this cookbook and her tiramisu recipe with you today.
Tiramisu Video Tutorial
Tiramisu is a classic no-bake Italian dessert combining espresso-dipped ladyfingers and a creamy lightly sweetened mascarpone cream. Now if you’re going to make tiramisu, you have to use the QUEEN OF CAKE’s recipe! It’s an important dessert for an important event. With the inclusion of espresso and alcohol, tiramisu is an adult dessert.
I prepared Maida’s tiramisu recipe a few times, serving it to our neighbors one night and halving the recipe for just us the week prior. Nothing triumphant comes for free, so expect a good amount of prep work. This recipe requires several bowls and a couple mixing techniques, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. In fact, let’s watch the entire dessert come together in a short video tutorial:
There are 2 components and 4 layers in tiramisu. Each component is layered twice.
- Espresso-Dipped Ladyfingers
- Mascarpone Cream
It goes: espresso-dipped ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, remaining espresso-dipped ladyfingers, and remaining mascarpone cream. Dust the whole thing with a dense layer of unsweetened cocoa to finish. Maida’s recipe calls for homemade chocolate ladyfingers and if you own this cookbook, I highly recommend using her chocolate ladyfinger recipe included. Most Italian bakeries make fresh ladyfingers as well. However if you’re desiring a simpler and more convenient approach, use a store-bought variety.
What are Ladyfingers?
Ladyfingers (savoiardi in Italian) are a sweet, pretty dry, and finger-shaped sponge cookie/cake. They’re a main ingredient in many desserts including trifles and tiramisu and when layered underneath cream, ladyfingers take on a lovely cake-like texture. You can find ladyfingers in most large grocery stores, Italian markets, or you can purchase them online. Homemade, as the book uses, is an option too.
How to Make Tiramisu
Before beginning this recipe, I encourage you to have all of your ingredients ready. You need strong espresso, Grand Marnier (optional– see below), ladyfingers, mascarpone, rum, eggs, sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Whisk espresso and Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier makes this a boozier tiramisu because there is alcohol in both the coffee mixture and the mascarpone cream. Grand Marnier’s flavor is great in this dessert, but you can skip it if desired. If you don’t have espresso, purchase espresso powder and follow the measurements in the recipe notes.
- Dip half of the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture. Ladyfingers soak up a lot of liquid within 1 second, so make it a very quick dunk. You don’t want them overly saturated and soggy because as the tiramisu chills, they’ll soften up underneath all the cream.
- Line dipped ladyfingers in bottom of pan. Arrange dipped ladyfingers in the baking pan to make one solid layer. If needed, cut some ladyfingers to fill in any empty spaces.
- Beat mascarpone and rum together. Use quality mascarpone. I like BelGioioso brand (not sponsored– truly what I always use). Though this is primarily an espresso-flavored dessert, tiramisu has rum as well.
- Gently cook egg yolks and sugar. Egg yolks are a main ingredient in tiramisu. Use a double boiler or makeshift bowl/saucepan double boiler to cook egg yolks and sugar together. Maida’s recipe also uses the egg whites, which come soon after this step.
- Beat egg yolks into mascarpone cream mixture.
- Make whipped cream. Whip heavy cream and vanilla extract into medium peaks.
- Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cream mixture.
- Whip egg whites, salt, and sugar. Beat the egg whites and salt together until foamy, then slowly pour in sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Fold egg white mixture into mascarpone cream mixture.
- Layer half of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers. An offset spatula helps.
- Dip and layer remaining ladyfingers.
- Top with remaining cream mixture, then chill for for 2-3 hours.
- Dust with cocoa. After chilling for a couple hours, dust the top layer with a dense layer of unsweetened cocoa powder. Use a sifter. This is a classic finishing touch to the entire tiramisu dessert.
- Chill overnight. You can chill it for up to 1 day, so it’s a great make-ahead dessert recipe!
The mascarpone, rum, and egg yolk mixture as well as the whipped cream:
The mascarpone mixture and whipped cream combined:
The whipped egg white mixture and the final mascarpone cream mixture:
How to Slice and Serve Tiramisu
As with most layered desserts, you can’t be nervous to just dive right in and start serving! Serve square portions. Make even cuts with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between each cut. A small metal serving spatula to remove the slices is massively helpful.
Common Tiramisu Questions – Answered!
Though this isn’t my first time preparing tiramisu, I will say that this is one of the best homemade tiramisu recipes that I’ve had– and I definitely encourage you to try it! Here are 4 FAQs and answers that will help you get started:
- What kind of rum do I use in tiramisu? Dark rum is best, but you can use brandy or your favorite coffee liqueur.
- Egg whites or whipped cream? Most tiramisu recipes use whipped egg whites OR whipped cream in the mascarpone cream layers. Egg whites contribute a more airy texture, while whipped cream makes the filling a bit more rich. This recipe actually uses both, so you’re getting both delightful textures.
- Are the eggs cooked? Tiramisu is a no-bake dessert. The egg yolks are gently cooked on the stovetop, but the egg whites are raw. Purchase pasteurized eggs because they are safe to consume raw.
- What size pan to use? This particular tiramisu recipe yields a large volume and the pan will be very full. Make sure your pan is large enough. I recommend a 9×13 inch dish with at least a 12-14 cup capacity. This 4 quart dish is wonderful too!
While I was sent Happiness is Baking from the publishing house, I was not paid for this post– I genuinely LOVE the book and recommend Maida’s recipes to all. I’ve also tried the Blueberry Crumb Cake and $250.00 Cookie Recipe. 🙂
More Specialty Desserts
This recipe is from the late Maida Heatter and is easily the best homemade tiramisu recipe that I’ve ever tried. Review the recipe notes and video tutorial before starting. Tiramisu tastes best when chilled overnight, so this is a wonderful make-ahead dessert.
- 1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) very strongly prepared espresso, warm or room temperature
- 6 Tablespoons (90ml) Grand Marnier*
- 40–45 ladyfingers*
- 16 ounces (about 2 cups; 450g) mascarpone, cold or at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60ml) dark rum
- 4 large eggs, separated*
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar, divided*
- 2 cups (480ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
- You need a large 9×13 inch baking pan/dish with at least a 12-14 cup capacity. Set aside and have ready to go!
- Dip half of the ladyfingers: You will form 2 layers each of dipped ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. Let’s begin with the 1st layer of ladyfingers. Whisk the espresso and Grand Marnier together in a shallow bowl. One at a time, quickly dip each side of the ladyfinger into the espresso mixture. You don’t want to over-saturate the ladyfinger with liquid because then the ladyfingers will taste soggy. Just a quick dip on each side. Arrange the dipped ladyfingers in the baking pan to make one solid layer. If needed, cut some ladyfingers to fill in any empty spaces. Reserve remaining espresso mixture and ladyfingers for another layer.
- Begin the mascarpone cream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the mascarpone and rum together on medium speed in a large bowl until smooth. Set aside.
- Prepare a double boiler for the egg yolks: If you have a double boiler, use it in this step. If you don’t, place a heat-proof bowl over a small pot of simmering water over medium-low heat. Don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Using a whisk or eggbeater (I simply use a whisk), whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup (50g) of granulated sugar together until light and foamy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately pour into the mascarpone mixture. Beat on medium speed until combined.
- Whip the heavy cream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and vanilla extract together on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Medium peaks are between soft/loose peaks and stiff peaks– and are the perfect consistency for the tiramisu cream. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.
- Beat the egg whites: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a *clean* whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt together on medium-high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase to high speed and slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) of sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. (Do not over-beat as the egg whites will become dry.) Fold into the mascarpone cream.
- Spread half of the mascarpone cream evenly over bottom layer of ladyfingers. An offset spatula helps spread it neatly and evenly.
- Dip remaining ladyfingers: Dip remaining ladyfingers into remaining espresso mixture and arrange one-by-one on top of the mascarpone layer. Gently press each down so they are nice and compact. Using an offset spatula, spread remaining mascarpone mixture evenly on top. If you’re using a large enough pan, it should all fit (but it will definitely tower high!). Refrigerate uncovered for 2-3 hours.
- Add cocoa layer, then chill: After a couple hours in the refrigerator, sift or strain a dense layer of cocoa powder all over the top. Wipe the rim of the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 8-9 more hours and up to 1 day.
- Using a sharp knife, slice chilled tiramisu into servings. Wipe knife clean between cuts. A small metal serving spatula is helpful for removing the slices.
- Cover leftover tiramisu and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freezing Instructions: Prepare tiramisu through step 8. Tightly cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer, evenly dust the top with cocoa, then thaw in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. (Can thaw covered or uncovered.)
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, KitchenAid Hand Mixer, 9×13 inch Baking Dish or 4-Quart Dish, Sieve, Offset Spatula, Metal Serving Spatula
- Smaller Recipe: Halve this recipe for a 9×9 inch or 10×10 inch square baking pan.
- Espresso: For the espresso, combine 5 Tablespoons instant espresso powder in 1 and 1/4 cups hot water. This is stronger than brewed espresso and perfect for tiramisu. In a pinch, use super super super strong black coffee.
- Grand Marnier: This addition makes this a boozier version of tiramisu because you have alcohol in both the coffee soak mixture and the mascarpone cream. Grand Marnier’s flavor is lovely in this dessert, but you can skip it and stick with just the dark rum.
- Ladyfingers: Ladyfingers (savoiardi in Italian) are a sweet, pretty dry, and finger-shaped sponge cookie/cake. They’re found in most large grocery stores, Italian markets, or you can purchase them online. You can also make them from scratch– there are many recipes online! Store-bought is most convenient. I use 2 standard packages of ladyfingers for this recipe.
- Eggs: Maida Heatter’s recipe calls for 5 large eggs, but in hopes to slightly reduce the volume of mascarpone cream, I reduced down to 4 large eggs. Both the egg whites and egg yolks are used in the mascarpone cream. An egg separator is helpful. The egg yolks are gently cooked, but if you’re concerned with eating raw eggs, purchase pasteurized eggs because they are safe to consume raw.
- Sugar: I increased the sugar by 2 Tablespoons for a VERY slightly sweeter cream. This is still not an overly sweet dessert.
Recipe reprinted in partnership with Little, Brown and Company. Recipe from Happiness is Baking by Maida Heatter, foreword by Dorie Greenspan
Keywords: Italian dessert
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